Is skate park a half-pipe dream?

Bikers, scooter riders, skaters and parents at the skate park behind Ripon Leisure Centre.  (130202M2d)
Bikers, scooter riders, skaters and parents at the skate park behind Ripon Leisure Centre. (130202M2d)

Gazette reporter Laura Connor finds out about the lack of facilities for skateboarderss and BMX bikers in Ripon, and speaks to those who hope things will change soon.

Tucked at the back of an open field near Morrisons supermarket in Ripon, hidden by bushes and towering trees, lies makeshift biking and skateboarding paths.

Usually a popular spot for early-morning runners and dog-walkers, young skaters and bikers from the city have staked their claim to this secluded spot because it is the only place they can practise their passions.

Skateboarders had been able to rely on using the track at the rear of Ripon Leisure Centre but sections are now unusable after supporting slats for the equipment became damaged.

So while Harrogate town still boasts a £140,000 skate park, complete with exotically named equipment such as a 1.5m high bowl, a tear drop volcano and hubba ledge, Ripon’s equivalent has been rendered useless.

“The skate park just isn’t fit for purpose anymore,” said Frances Fraser, whose 13-year-old son Morgan is a BMX fanatic along with several of his school friends.

“They need somewhere safe to go,” she said. “I pay my taxes and there is just nothing in Ripon whatsoever.

“Teenagers are just bored. There aren’t the facilities in Ripon to keep them busy. Morgan doesn’t want to be stuck in the house in front of the computer after school, especially when the nights are getting lighter. Kids deserve a facility.”

Mrs Fraser, 41, who works as a hairdresser in Ripon, said it is impossible to travel to Harrogate to use the Valley Gardens skate park with Morgan – a student at Boroughbridge High School – because she lacks private transport to ferry the bicycle to the town.

“I don’t have a car and we are not allowed on the bus with a bike so we have no way of getting there,” said Mrs Fraser.

Ripon council has set up a working group tasked with finding ways of bringing new skateboarding facilities to the city – but fears remain a bike park would prove too expensive, with prices starting at £80,000.

Talking at a Ripon City Council meeting on Monday, January 28, Coun Stuart Martin suggested Harrogate Borough Council might match the funding raised for the bike project by the city council.

“But it would be dependent on funding coming from the constituted working group,” added Coun Martin.

Coun Mick Stanley, who chaired the meeting, said: “We know some money would be put forward, but nowhere near £80,000.”

Along with mum-of-two Fiona Milner and mum-of-five Kelly Peacock, Mrs Fraser is now intent on raising £25,000 towards the bike project in the next two years through a variety of events, including back-packing in Sainsbury’s and race days.

In a joint statement to the Gazette, the three mums said: “It is hard enough to keep teeenagers entertained as it is. There is a great shortage of facilities in Ripon.

“BMX-ing and skateboarding are some of the fastest growing extreme sports in the country and they offer healthy exercise for all ages.”

Mrs Fraser added skating and biking are not just activities enjoyed by teenagers, but people of all ages and abilities.

“We have people in wheelchairs joining in,” she said. “It’s not just a teenage sport.”

A spokesman for Harrogate Borough Council confirmed refurbishment of the skate park in Ripon has become a necessity and they are looking to fund this part of the project “sooner rather than later”.

But the spokesman emphasised the bike park project – which has attracted a strong Facebook following with nearly 250 members – and the skate park refurbishment are “two separate ambitions”.

The spokesman told the Gazette: “Both local authorities are very keen to support these improvements for Ripon but we had to make sure all parties were fully aware of what is possible in the short-term with the refurbishment of the skate park and the Ripon Bike Group’s ambition for the bike park in the medium term.

“It is hugely important to spend money repairing the current skate park when it is unusable. It’s hugely important to encourage young people to exercise in a fun and safe way.”

l If you would like to find out more about the Ripon Bike Park Project, or donate money, visit www.facebook.com/groups/213809755355753/ or email ben.riponbikeparkproject@gmail.com